TAMPA — Seventeen school district employees are in the running for Excellence in Education awards, including the coveted title of Hillsborough Teacher of the Year.
The finalists, who were surprised at their schools on Friday, include two from Claywell Elementary in Northdale: Sharon S. Smith, a mentor in the Gates-funded Empowering Effective Teachers program, who is a finalist for Teacher of the Year; and Cindy Nunez, a kindergarten assistant.
It is the second time Nunez, 55, is her school's support employee of the year, but the first time she's a district finalist.
"Oh my God, it was the biggest surprise," she said.
Her students enjoyed the horns and confetti, and she planned to spend the evening celebrating with her family.
"You do it because you love children," said Nunez, who works with seven kindergarten classes. "Every day is a new adventure."
Winners in all categories will be announced at a banquet on March 28.
The other finalists are:
Teacher of the Year: Cassandra Mattison, Advanced Placement literature, writing resource and English department chair at Spoto High School; Dakeyan "Dre" Graham, band and orchestra director, King High School; Brian Nanns, seventh grade computer applications in business, Williams Middle Magnet School; Krysta Porteus, seventh and eighth grade math and math research, Young Middle Magnet School; Kyla Bailey, music, Lanier Elementary; Kathy Hill, second grade, Mitchell Elementary.
Ida S. Baker Diversity Educator: Leticia Brull, English for speakers of other languages resource teacher, Dickenson Elementary; JoAnna Helak, kindergarten and second grade reading coach, B.T. Washington Elementary; William F. Leonard II, reading, social and personal skills at Progress Village Middle; Stacey P. Hirn, fourth grade math, science, reading and social studies, FishHawk Creek Elementary; Soccorito M. Claudio, fifth grade language arts and social studies serving exceptional student education and English language learners students, Wimauma Elementary
Instructional Support Employee: Maryann Bordonaro, secretary, Essrig Elementary; Susan Blackmon, kindergarten aide, Oak Park Elementary; Kelly Foss, secretary, Symmes Elementary; Brenda Gail Mosley, Secretary, Robinson Elementary.